Italy, a cultural superpower



Arab News

Published — Saturday 2 June 2012

Last update 2 June 2012 7:52 pm

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The Canadian-American economist John Kenneth Galbraith, to explain the miracle of post war Italian reconstruction, claimed that “the real reason is that Italy has incorporated in its products an essential component of culture, and cities such as Milan, Parma, Florence, Siena, Venice, Rome, Naples and Palermo, while having very poor infrastructure, display in their standard of living a huge amount of beauty”.
This is the source from where the creativity of our production system, based on beauty and harmony, originates. Italian design and the greater part of what is considered beautiful in the world identify with Italian products.
There are certainly other, more ancient civilizations, but surely, no other has steadily produced as much as Italy throughout the centuries. And even in periods of decadence, there were no interruptions in the creative process in all fields; from the visual arts to architecture, engineering, music, literature, cinema, philosophy, law, the political and social sciences, the exact sciences, in contexts that have spread out throughout the world absorbing contributions from other civilizations.
The Etruscan roots, Greek-Roman and Judeo- Christian, the contribution of Islam, the immensity of the Renaissance, have all taken from the world, then elaborated, enriched and returned to the world the highest in knowledge and creation. This ability is typical of the greatest civilizations, although none have done so with such intensity as our peninsula.
Italy is the country that counts the highest number of UNESCO cultural and natural sites (47 in a world list of 936). From the North to the South, all sites - well beyond those surveyed by UNESCO - testify this magnitude. A tremendous responsibility: a great heritage to be preserved. This great historical and artistic heritage makes Italy the first in the world despite its rather limited size - about 60 million people who reside in an area of just 300 thousand square km .
But if culture is well rooted in our past, it is also a pillar of the present, of progress and sustainability. The cultural industry is a significant part of the production of wealth and employment in Italy :
4.9% of GDP ,1,400,000 employees, 400,000 businesses involved. The Italian film production industry is the third in the world. In the last ten years as much as 1207 films have been put on the market. Book industry is also a strong asset: Italy counts a very high number of publishing companies (7,590 in 2010); the De Agostini Group is ranking 10th in the world for sales. Turin, with the “Salone Internazionale del Libro”, hosts the second largest book fair in Europe, the first one since 2006 for the number of visitors.
Not to mention the indirect but powerful (not easily measurable) effect of culture on the promotion in the world of Italy as a top tourist destination. Italy’s heritage draws more than 45 million visitors every year, making tourism our primary industry, accounting for 8.6% of GDP and makes Italy a brand of quality and beauty.
Besides, Italy has been supporting
archaeological, anthropological and ethnological missions abroad for many years. These missions are not only scientific, but are also a valuable tool for training of local operators and provide technology transfer in some sectors, such as archaeology, restoration and protection of cultural heritage, in which Italy has an internationally recognized level of excellence. This activity also represents a commitment to actively contribute to intercultural dialogue and development policies in many countries, even remote areas, where missions are sometimes the only Italian cultural presence.
Italy is second only to China in the export of design products, for a global value of $ 24,802 millions. It is also second (to Germany) for the number of registered patents (2003-2009).

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